The Lost Children Net Label proudly presents it's second release by Charts and Maps, even more intrinsically unclassifiable yet still grooving around in their unique texture of fusion and post-psychedelic.
Charts and Maps have always been a difficult band to figure out. I was at both their first and last shows - I saw them develop from a loud, jumbled mess of good ideas wrenched together at angles to one of the most aggressively forward-thinking end electrifying live bands on the Los Angeles underground circuit. Dead Horse, much more than any previous recording, captures the sheer bombast of their live performances. It was recorded at the band's pinnacle, on the eve of their final performance at the tail end of 2009. Clashing personalities and gargantuan creative workloads pulled them in different directions. This is where the Heard of Elephants family tree comes in -- It gets a bit complicated. Khawaja (bass), Melancon (drums), and Allison (sax/vocals) currently play in Woolen. Melancon, Allison and Watford (guitar) are part of Random Patterns, and John Taylor (guitar) is one half of Semiconscious Gloria.
Their music is the convergence of a number of diverse tendencies. They're one part ballsy big band jazz, another shimmery post-rock act with walls of melodic sound, a mathy-but-not-calculator-mathy garage-prog outfit, or an ill-tempered funk band with bad intentions -- all underpinned by an almost reckless sense of imagination, deep, grooving beats and eloquent, nimble lead melodies.
The album opens with the cheekily titled 'Take Me Back To Highland Park (Or I Will Die a Gruesome Death),' inspired after a night out in Hollywood. It is loud and stompy, sax heavy and skipping almost entirely through odd-time signatures while managing to be all up in your face without jamming on the distortion pedal. The epic, sweaty 11-minute opus 'In the Town of Machine,' follows, weaving an ominous melodic narrative inspired by the film Dead Man through a number of dystopian sonic landscapes, most culminating in absolutely searing lead lines by guitarist John Taylor. I'm loathe to use the word 'incendiary' to describe guitar playing, but, I mean it; I honestly believe that the man can start fires with his fingers alone.
The album closes with the band's final song, the title track 'Dead Horse.' I would argue that it is their finest work, one of the few to include prominent vocals (though you won't find a lyric sheet attached anywhere) and is vast in concept but concise in execution. Waves of sound lull you into a sense of comfort before dropping you off, leaving your floating in a futurist pool. Abruptly a mean funk commences. It's all syncopated and raw and signature Charts and Maps before the intensity drops to a pause. Then it builds slowly into what band members have described as 'a descent into hell.' And you can see why. It is as if they knew this was their final communication with the world and they wanted to get it all out. At the crashing end, every member is playing at 10 before the beast collapses, winded and spent.
Whether this is your cup of tea or not, Charts and Maps and this album in particular is an experiment going defiantly against the grain in Los Angeles with equal dashings of aggression and aplomb.